Give employees and companies a sustai­nable future: impose condi­tions on state aid for polluting sectors now

2 June 2020

All over the world, businesses are losing money as a result of the coronavirus and governments are allocating hundreds of billions to support them. The Dutch Party for the Animals is in favor of aid packages to combat the economic crisis and to keep people employed, but opposes unconditional support to polluting sectors. "Financial injections should be used to protect people and nature, not to keep companies going that contribute to climate change, pollution, and loss of biodiversity or conduct anti-social personnel policies," said Lammert van Raan, member of parliament for the Party for the Animals.

Governments from China to the US and Canada and from Europe to Australia are allocating money to mitigate the economic damage caused by Covid-19. Aviation and the oil, gas and automobile industries in particular demand and receive sky-high amounts - often without any concrete or even general conditions being imposed on their spending. Besides financial resources, relaxation, or suspension of environmental requirements is also used to "help sectors through the crisis". Companies such as EasyJet, Lufthansa, Air France/KLM, Shell, Gazprom, Total and Renault are kept afloat with public money without having to meet specific social or sustainability requirements - despite the urgent appeal of environmental organisations, publicists, and Secretary General of United Nations Antonio Guterres.

That is unacceptable and a missed opportunity according to the Party for the Animals. Van Raan: "We are currently going through several crises at the same time; in addition to the corona crisis, the climate and biodiversity crisis. The urgency of tackling the corona outbreak is rightly high, but the Party for the Animals would also like to see that sense of urgency in tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, which is now in danger of being shelved. If we further derail these crises, the costs - in the broad sense of the word - could be many times higher than the current economic support package that is being worked out."

That is why the Party for the Animals is strongly opposed to the postponement of climate measures and advocates the smart use of the financial resources currently being made available, so that all crises can be tackled at the same time. "Many companies already faced the task of adapting to playing a role in the future economy, one in which we no longer exceed the limits of the planet. These companies will benefit if we use the financial resources from the emergency package to accelerate this transition. And they do not benefit from restoring the old status quo of pollution, exploitation, and economies of scale. That economic model from before the corona crisis is part of the problem that led us to having a climate crisis and a biodiversity crisis," says Van Raan.

Help reform aviation: give employees a new chance
The Dutch Party for the Animals only supports state aid to airlines such as KLM if it is subject to strict conditions. "State aid must accelerate the sustainability of polluting sectors and so help them to become future-proof. That would also mean a significant decrease in the number of flights for airlines. Only by shrinking can aviation operate within the limits of the climate, living environment, and safety of humans and animals."

In addition to concrete conditions such as a strict CO2 budget, compliance with WHO standards in the field of emissions and noise, and a fair tax on kerosene and airline tickets, the Party for the Animals also wants to set a more social personnel policy. "KLM has no regard for its own staff and fires thousands of people in direct conflict with the intention of the job retention aid package during the corona crisis," says Van Raan. "Since aviation will have to shrink structurally, we must actively help personnel from that sector to switch to a truly future-proof job in other sectors, such as healthcare and education."

Toxin-free bulbs for the world market and sustainably produced food for the region
The Party for the Animals also wants to attach sustainability conditions to the millions of euros of state aid to the floriculture and potato sector. "It is a missed opportunity if an end to the large-scale use of poison does not become a condition for support for these sectors," said PftA MP Frank Wassenberg. "The cultivation of lilies, tulips, and potatoes - almost 90 percent of which is destined for export - uses an incredible amount of agricultural poison. Nature and local residents are struggling with its harmful effects."

In addition to drastically reducing the use of agricultural poison, the Party for the Animals also pleads for a transition to nature-inclusive circular agriculture in which agricultural land is used as efficiently as possible. In this light, the party has urged the minister to use the Covid-19 support package to help a large amount of export-oriented floriculture companies switch to sustainable food production for their own region.